The organizers behind last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally want to cast an event held on its anniversary as a non-violent demonstration. But those same organizers are quietly asking members of violent paramilitary groups to attend the event, leaked messages reveal.
Jason Kessler, Unite the Right’s main organizer, has been losing far-right allies at a steady rate since the first disastrous rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. Facing multiple lawsuits over the fallout of that deadly white supremacist meetup, Kessler has declared that the sequel event will be a peaceful affair. But two months’ worth of leaked Facebook messages, released by the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot, reveal that Kessler and his co-organizers discussed bringing on at least one violent skinhead group, and hoped to court other far-right groups that have publicly distanced themselves from Unite the Right.
“We are paramilitary + neo-Nazi,” a Facebook user calling himself “McCormick H Foley” wrote in the group chat, which contained a total of 20 people at various times. Foley is an alias for a member of the group Vanguard America, Unicorn Riot reported. James Fields Jr., the man accused of driving a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters at Unite the Right, was seen marching with Vanguard America and holding a shield with the group’s logo.
In the chat, Foley mentioned acting as security for Unite the Right 2 “as I can stay at least somewhat close to my Vanguard.”
Foley told the group he was coming to the rally with between seven and 15 members of Vanguard America and the Hammerskins, a violent white supremacist group whose members have been convicted in multiple beatdowns and murders of minorities since their foundation in the late 1980s.
Kessler scolded Foley for discussing violence in the chat, which members feared had been infiltrated by enemies or law enforcement.
“This is absolutely the wrong kind of thing to be talking about on Facebook,” Kessler said.
“It's not like nobody knows, Foley replied, adding later, “believe me when we're not planning on coming looking like a paramilitary groups.”
Kessler had good reasons to police the tone of the chat. He’s currently being sued for his involvement in Unite the Right, including the death and injury resulting from Fields’ car attack, which killed 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Hayer.
One of those lawsuits focuses on messages organizers sent in advance of the first rally. In a group on the chat platform Discord, those Unite the Right supporters discussed violence against counter-protesters, including sharing memes about hitting opponents with cars. Lawyers for victims of the car attack say the messages are evidence that organizers conspired to commit violence at the first rally.
“This is a White Civil Rights event… Always refer to it in those terms,” Kessler told Foley in the Facebook messages, repeating the title he has tried to give the redux rally. “Trust me I’m in the middle of lawsuits. I know how this has to be talked about.”
His fellow organizers also discussed trying to build bridges with the Proud Boys, a so-called “western chauvinist” organization whose leaders have pushed aggressively anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT stances. The group’s leaders disavowed the first Unite the Right rally, but a member of the group chat boasted of allegedly getting Proud Boys to join the anniversary event.
“I've got POYBs [shorthand for Proud Boyds] onboard as long as their godfathers don't cuck again,” said a person going by “Danny Wolf” who claimed to have a significant other who works in law enforcement. “Still finalizing details with American Guard. None of them know Im at all involved in this, so pretty soon they're going to need to talk to you, Jason.”
Allies are currently hard to come by for Kessler. Newsweek previously reported that many of his first rally’s key players are skipping the anniversary rally out of fear of counter-protesters or police. Other groups from the first Unite the Right rally have become defunct, or signed agreements effectively keeping them out of Charlottesville.
In recent weeks, more far-right figureheads have turned against Kessler. On the white supremacist-friendly social media site Gab, a member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen threatened to release compromising material on Kessler. Shortly after Unicorn Riot released the Facebook logs, Chris Cantwell, a fascist podcaster who featured prominently in the first Unite the Right rally published a blog post warning readers to “Follow Kessler At Your Peril.”
And on Thursday night, Kessler appeared on a livestream of Patrick Little, a white supremacist who ran a failed bid for a Senate role in California. In the Facebook chats, Kessler had suggested Little as a Unite the Right 2 speaker. But midway through the Thursday segment on Little’s livestream, Kessler was interrupted by his father.
“Hey! You get out of my room!” Kessler’s father yelled at him from offscreen.
“You got a drunk roommate there?” Little asked him.“Something like that,” Kessler said, trying to dismiss the yelling person as someone who supported Judaism.
“Get out of my room Jason,” the off-screen voice continued to yell. “This is my room.”
Kessler eventually ran off-screen. When he returned, he admitted that the person was his father, whose views Kessler nlamed on his watching the History Channel with its “constant anti-German propaganda.
“I’m stuck in a situation where I have to stay with my family because I’m paying for all these lawsuits,” Kessler complained.